You are on page 1of 9

Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci.

39 (2008) 506–514

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci.

journal homepage:

Kant’s answer to the question ‘what is man?’ and its implications for anthropology
Alix A. Cohen
Newnham College, Cambridge CB3 9DF, UK

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Keywords: This paper examines Kant’s anthropological project and its relationship to his conception of ‘man’ in order
Immanuel to show that Kant’s answer to the question ‘what is man?’ entails a decisive re-evaluation of traditional
Kant conceptions of human nature. I argue that Kant redirects the question ‘what is man?’ away from defining
man in terms of what he is, and towards defining him in terms of what he does, in particular through the
distinction between three levels of what I will call ‘man’s praxis’: the levels of technicality, prudence, and
Aliens morality. As soon as man is understood in terms of what he makes of himself rather than in terms of what
Human nature he is, two crucial issues arise: what is the purpose of his making? And how can he reach this destination?
My claim is that whilst the first question is answered by ethics and a doctrine of prudence, the second
question is answered by anthropology. In this sense, anthropology plays the crucial role of identifying
the worldly helps and hindrances to the realisation of man’s purposes—and this is the reason why it
should be understood as a ‘pragmatic’ discipline.
Ó 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

When citing this paper, please use the full journal title Studies in History and Philosophy of Science

1. Introduction and never-ending result of his own making.2 To flesh out this pic-
ture of human praxis, Section 2 examines three types of ‘aliens’ so
Kant famously defined ‘what is man?’ as the question that as to identify, by contrast, the three distinctive features of mankind.
encompasses the whole of philosophy.1 The aim of this paper is Decisively, what is specific about these features is that they belong
to provide an examination of Kant’s anthropological project as a to the realm of man’s acting rather than his essence.
whole and its relationship to his conception of ‘man’ in order to As soon as man is understood in terms of what he makes of
show that his answer to the question ‘what is man?’ entails a deci- himself rather than in terms of what he is, two crucial issues arise:
sive re-evaluation of traditional conceptions of human nature. what is the purpose of his making? And how can he reach this des-
More precisely, I argue that Kant in fact redirects the question tination? The aim of Section 3 is to show that whilst the first ques-
‘what is man?’ from defining man in terms of what he is to defining tion is answered by ethics and a doctrine of prudence, the second
him in terms of what he does, in particular through the distinction question is answered by pragmatic anthropology. For anthropology
between three levels of what I call ‘man’s praxis’ (that is, his acting plays the crucial role of identifying the worldly helps and hin-
in the world): the levels of technicality, prudence, and morality. drances to the realisation of man’s purposes—and this is the reason
Insofar as man is re-defined in terms of his praxis, he becomes why it should be understood as a ‘pragmatic’ discipline. To give
the product of his own making rather than an immediate given: further support to this claim, I spell out the pragmatic intent of
he ‘has a character that he himself creates’, he is the on-going anthropology by focusing on its object, its method and its aim. This

E-mail address:

The field of philosophy . . . may be reduced to the following questions: 1. What can I know? 2. What ought I to do? 3. What may I hope? 4. What is man? The first question is
answered by Metaphysics, the second by Morals, the third by Religion, and the fourth by Anthropology. In reality, however, all these might be reckoned under anthropology, since
the first three questions refer to the last’ (Kant, 1885, p. 15 [9:187]). See also ‘The plan I prescribed for myself a long time ago calls for an examination of the field of pure
philosophy with a view to solving three problems: (1) What can I know? (metaphysics). (2) What ought I to do? (moral philosophy). (3) What may I hope? (philosophy of
religion). A fourth question ought to follow, finally: What is man? (anthropology, a subject on which I have lectured for over twenty years)’ (Kant, 1999b, p. 458 [11:429]).
References in square brackets are to Kants gesammelte Schriften, edited under the auspices of the Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Kant, 1910–).
Kant (1996), p. 238 [7:321].

0039-3681/$ - see front matter Ó 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
A.A. Cohen / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 39 (2008) 506–514 507

allows me to conclude that Kant’s anthropology is pragmatic in terms of what he does.5 In other words, the crucial implication of
three fundamental senses: its object is pragmatic insofar as it stud- Kant’s method is that it entails a decisive re-evaluation of traditional
ies man in terms of his actions in the world, and thus as a freely conceptions of human nature: the question ‘what is man?’ is redi-
acting being; second, its method is pragmatic in that it involves rected at what man does as opposed to what he is—and this calls
interaction rather than observation; and third, its aim is pragmatic for the distinction of three different levels of praxis (that is, his acting
inasmuch as it is not only descriptive but prescriptive. in the world): the level of technicality, the level of prudence, and the
level of morality.6 Regrettably, Kant has not spelled out the full
2. The three levels of man’s ‘praxis’ and man’s aliens implications of these three levels for anthropology and our under-
standing of the relationship between man and the world. However,
In the Anthropology, Kant seems to suggest that the attempt to I shall expand Kant’s thoughts by analysing various allusions and re-
identify the distinguishing mark of mankind cannot be successful. marks he makes throughout the Anthropology and the Lectures on
For to do so, we would have to be able to compare what we think to anthropology. More specifically, I want to focus on some passages
be our distinctive features, namely the fact that we define our- Kant dedicates to man’s ‘others’ or ‘aliens’. Traditionally, the study
selves in terms of ‘terrestrial rational beings’, with that of other of the ‘other’ is the yardstick by which men measure their own com-
rational beings in order to see what is specific to the human form mon humanity.7 On this basis, I will show that three types of aliens
of rationality. in Kant’s works can be used to illustrate, by contrast, each of man’s
level of praxis. These types are aristocrats, sincere aliens, and non-
In order to sketch the character of a certain creature’s species, it
white races—they correspond respectively to the first, second and
is necessary that the species be compared with and referred to
third level of man’s praxis.
in terms of other species already known to us. What makes the
species different from each other has to be quoted and referred
2.1. Aristocrats: the sterile aliens (first level of man’s praxis)
to as the differentiating reason for its properties. But if one kind
of creature which we know (A) is compared to another kind of
The first level of man’s praxis consists in his technical ability to
creature which we do not know (non-A), how, then, can we
manipulate and produce things, and thus to secure his subsistence
expect or demand to sketch the character of A, when we have
by cultivating nature. Kant understands this human ability as cor-
no middle term for the comparison? The highest concept of spe-
responding to a natural imperative: ‘Provision for his diet, his
cies may be that of a terrestrial rational being, but we will not
clothing, his bodily safety and defense . . . all of these should be en-
be able to describe its characteristics because we do not know
tirely of his own making’.8 The fact that man is entirely responsible
of a non-terrestrial rational being which would enable us to
for his subsistence allows him to feel a form of self-esteem: ‘he alone
refer to its properties and consequently classify that terrestrial
would have the entire credit for it and would have only himself to
being as rational. (Kant, 1996, pp. 237–238 [7:320–321])
thank; it is as if [nature] aimed more at his rational self-esteem than
Because we have no empirical evidence of a non-terrestrial rational at this well-being’.9 Yet aristocrats, understood as representing the
being and can only imagine one, we are left without a term for non-working classes, are certainly not entitled to this self-esteem.
comparison and ‘It seems, therefore, that the problem of giving an Insofar as they do not produce anything, they are not worthy of
account of the character of the human species is quite insoluble’.3 the life they live, and perhaps even not worthy of life itself: ‘nature
Yet unexpectedly, this insolubility is immediately followed by a is utterly unconcerned that man live well, only that he bring himself
response: to the point where his conduct make him worthy of life and well-
being’.10 What sets aristocrats apart from all other human beings
Man is markedly different from all other creatures, because of
is that they believe themselves to be quite above labour: ‘those
his technical gift for manipulating things (mechanically–con-
who have enough to live on, whether in affluence or penury, consider
nected with consciousness), his pragmatic gift (being clever in
themselves superior in comparison with those who must work in or-
the use of others for his own purposes), and his moral gift of
der to live. . . . All, in a word, consider themselves superior to the ex-
character (so that he can act toward himself and others accord-
tent that they believe they do not have to work’.11 They consume
ing to the principle of freedom under the law). (Ibid. pp. 238–
goods and services without producing anything for their subsistence,
239 [7:322]; my emphases4)
and this goes against Nature’s intention for man: ‘Nature has willed
I want to argue that Kant can now offer a response because the that man, entirely by himself, produce everything that goes beyond
question addressed has in fact shifted from defining man in terms the mechanical organisation of his animal existence’.12 In this respect,
of what he is (that is, a terrestrial rational being) to defining him in aristocrats are undoubtedly in-human.

Although Kant’s response does identify what is distinctively human, it can only do so from a terrestrial vantage point. For as pointed out in the previous passage, Kant cannot
offer a definition of the distinctive features of mankind by comparing them with that of other types of rational beings. In this sense, although the three gifts identified in this
passage do allow us to distinguish man from beast, they do not define man simpliciter.
Note the use of verbs, which I emphasised in the passage in question.
I opt for the word ‘praxis’ for a number of reasons. Firstly, I cannot use the word ‘practical’ since, within a Kantian context, it should be reserved for the realm of freedom and
morals. Secondly, the words ‘action’, ‘acting’ or ‘agency’ would exclude things such as language. Thirdly, the word ‘doing’ would leave out the conceptual realm. By contrast, the
word ‘praxis’ is sufficiently broad to include all the forms of the active relationship between man and world.
Adams, for instance, observes that ‘The Other figures prominently in some of the earliest literature that has come down to us, as well as in the mythology of countless present-
day peoples. [. . .] comparisons with the Other always reflect, for better or worse, on ourselves’ (Adams, 1998, pp. 1–2). Traditional figures of otherness in the eighteenth century
include feral children, Orang-Utans and savages. To my knowledge, Kant does not examine these figures specifically. However, see David Clark (2001) for an analysis of the figures
of otherness that do appear in Kant’s works.
Kant (1983), p. 31 [8:20]. See also ‘It is of the greatest importance that children should learn to work. Man is the only animal who is obliged to work’ (Kant, 2003, p. 69
Kant (1983), p. 31 [8:20].
Ibid. As Clark remarks, ‘as a treatise devoted to the task of analysing what ‘man’ actively makes of himself, it could only be felt as a harsh rebuke to the aristocrats whom he
had attacked less than two years before as the ‘men’ who passively ‘had a living’, and who are therefore perversely unwilling to make anything of themselves’ (Clark, 2001, p. 230).
Kant (2002), p. 431 [8:390].
Kant (1983), p. 31 [8:19].
508 A.A. Cohen / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 39 (2008) 506–514

2.2. Extraterrestrial rational beings: the sincere aliens (second level of 2) The race of Negroes, one could say, is entirely the oppo-
man’s praxis) site . . .; they are full of affect and passion, very lively, chatty
and vain. It can be educated, but only to the education of ser-
The second level of man’s praxis, ‘his pragmatic gift (being cle- vants, that is, they can be trained. They have many motives,
ver in the use of others for his own purposes)’, presupposes a medi- are sensitive, fear blows and do much out of concern for
ation between his interior and his exterior. For his prudential honor.
attitude is made possible by the fact that his thoughts, desires 3) The Hindus have incentives, but have a strong degree of
and intentions have to be expressed or signified indirectly by a calm, and all look like philosophers. That notwithstanding,
variety of signs.13 Kant illustrates this distinctive feature of human they are much inclined to anger and love. They thus are edu-
beings with a thought experiment: we are to imagine a society of cable in the highest degree, but only to arts and not to sci-
beings who have the opposite feature, namely beings who cannot ences. They will never achieve abstract concepts. . . . The
but reveal themselves completely. Hindus will always stay as they are, they will never go far-
ther, even if they started educating themselves earlier.
It could well be that on another planet there might be rational
4) The race of the whites contains all motives and talents in
beings who could not think in any other way but aloud. These
itself; and so one must observe it more carefully. To the
beings would not be able to have thoughts without voicing them
white race belong all of Europe, the Turks, and the Kalmucks.
at the same time, whether they be awake or asleep, whether in
If ever a revolution occurred, it was always brought about by
the company of others or alone. (Kant, 1996, p. 250 [7:332])
the whites, and the Hindus, Americans, Negroes never has
For such a being, there would be no distinction between his interior any part in it. (Ibid. pp. 111–112 [25.2:1187–1188])
and his exterior; everything would be literally out in the open. He
simply would not be able to conceal his feelings and intentions, This racial hierarchy is based on two criteria: firstly, the internal
and so would not be capable of acting prudentially in the sense of play of incentives within each race, and secondly, the degree of cul-
using others for his own purposes. Thus, this being, which I would ture and civilisation each can achieve.
like to call the ‘sincere alien’, allows Kant to identify man’s duplic- First, American people lack affect and passion, and thus have
ity—the gap between his being and his seeming—as one of his dis- ‘no prospects’. This remark can be understood in two senses:
tinctive features and as a condition of possibility of prudence: ‘it either they have no prospect of developing civilisation, or they
is part of the original composition of a human creature, and it be- have no prospect at all, and are thus destined to disappear. Kant’s
longs to the concept of the species, to explore the thoughts of oth- text is quite unclear on this issue. The fact that by not being amo-
ers, but to conceal one’s own’.14 rous they are not fertile suggests the latter, namely that they are
doomed to extinct eventually. In any case, it is clear that insofar
2.3. Non-white races: the amoral aliens (third level of man’s praxis) as Americans are incapable of any type of cultivation, they are not
truly human.16 The case of Negroes is in some sense the counter-
Some passages, and in particular the following, suggest that part of Americans. They do have affects and passions, but cannot be
Kant holds extreme views of race which justify the consideration properly educated—rather, they have to be trained through physical
of certain human races as inferior and even alien.15 constraint. Insofar as this training comes from the ‘outside’, it does
not belong to a genuine process of civilisation (for such a process
(1) ‘insensitive’ Americans with no prospects; even the people
has to come from the ‘inside’): they can only become competent
of Mexico and Peru cannot be cultivated; (2) lively Negroes,
servants who can be governed but can never govern. Thirdly, Hin-
who can be cultivated as ‘servants’ but are ‘incapable of leading
dus are superior to both Negroes and Americans.17 They have some
themselves’; (3) self-possessed Indians who can progress in art
access to culture, and yet this access is only partial insofar as they
but not in ‘sciences and enlightenment’, and make good citizens
cannot properly use their rational powers; in particular, they can-
but not magistrates, because they only know compulsion, and
not achieve abstract concepts. What Kant seems to suggest here
not ‘justice and freedom’; and finally (4) whites (the word
is that insofar as Hindus are limited to a purely empirical perspec-
was added later), who have ‘all of nature’s motives in affects
tive, their access to culture (justice and freedom in particular) is
and passions, all talents, all tendencies to cultivation and civili-
prevented by their lack of abstract rational power and the patho-
sation’, and can ‘obey as well as govern: they are the only ones
logical grounding of their incentives. Finally, the white race is, for
who always progress in perfection’. (Trans. Larrimore, 1999, p.
Kant, the expression of the ideal of humanity. It is the unique driv-
114 [15:877–878])
ing force of history and the only race capable of full and constant
1) The American people are uneducable; for they lack affect progress in perfection. In this sense, Americans, Negroes and Hin-
and passion. They are not amorous, and so are not fertile. dus are ‘amoral aliens’—they do not possess the potential for
They speak hardly at all, . . . care for nothing and are lazy. morality; the white race alone possesses it.18

Kant (1996), p. 238 [7:322]. As Kant writes, ‘He would like to discuss with someone what he thinks about his associates, the government, religion and so forth, but he cannot
risk it: partly because the other person, while prudently keeping back his own judgments, might use this to harm him, and partly because, as regards disclosing his faults, the
other person may conceal his own, so that he would lose something of the other’s respect by presenting himself quite candidly to him’ (Kant, 1999, pp. 586–587 [6:472]). As is
now well known, Kant’s conception of man’s use of others for his own purposes is not incompatible with moral duty as such. Rather, it is thought to emphasise the social
dimension of prudence (that is, the importance of social dynamics and social norms). See for instance Kain (2003), pp. 246–248, and Frierson (2003), pp. 53–56.
Kant (1996), p. 250 [7:332]. I have analysed in detail the figure of the sincere alien in Cohen (2008).
It can be noted with Larrimore that these views appear only in fragments from his personal notes [15:875–879] and the Menschenkunde (students notes). This suggests that
firstly, Kant did not publicly air these claims, and secondly, he could be merely working out possible implications of the position he publicly defended (Larrimore, 1999, p. 114).
For analyses of the implications of these passages, see Eze (1995), Larrimore (1999), and Lagier (2004), pp. 179–184.
Of course, Americans are human in the sense that they belong to the human species. However, Kant can nevertheless maintain that they are not truly human in the sense that
they do not realise the full potential of which man is capable. For, whilst supporting a monogenetic theory of the human races, he holds an epigenetic view of the development of
man’s natural predispositions which allows that some categories of men do not actualise all of these predispositions (see Cohen, 2006).
For ‘Americans and negroes cannot govern themselves. Thus are good only as slaves’ (trans. Larrimore 1999, p. 114 [25.2:878]).
As Larrimore notes, ‘Kant discount[s] the very capacity of the (non-white) races for autonomy’ (Larrimore, 1999, p. 124). As Eze supports, Kant ‘provide[s] the psychological–
moral account for the differences on the basis of a presumed rational ability or inability to ‘elevate’ (or educate) oneself into humanity from, one might add, the rather humble
‘gift’ or ‘talent’ originally offered or denied by mother nature to various races’ (Eze, 1995, pp. 214–215).
A.A. Cohen / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 39 (2008) 506–514 509

On this basis, there is a hierarchy according to which the lowest Table 1

race does not possess any ‘praxical’ ability, whilst the highest pos- Race Level of praxis
sesses all of them. Americans do not develop any level of praxis;
American No praxis
Negroes, insofar as they can only be trained to execute physical Negro Technical
tasks, develop the first, technical level of praxis alone; Hindus, Hindu Pragmatic
who have some access to culture but not to abstract rationality, White Practical
can reach the second, prudential level of praxis; and finally Whites,
who can reach the level of morality, are the only human race which
can develop the full potential of human predispositions (Table 1). man in terms of his actions in the world, and thus as a freely acting
As a result, each type of alien analysed in this section can be being; second, its method is pragmatic in that it involves interaction
understood as lacking one of man’s praxical abilities: the aristo- as well as observation; and third, its aim is pragmatic inasmuch as it
crats lack technical ability, sincere aliens lack prudential ability is not only descriptive but prescriptive.
and non-white races lack moral ability. In the following section, I
want to focus on the implications of this account of human praxis 3.1. The object of pragmatic anthropology
for Kant’s anthropology. To do so, I spell out its pragmatic intent by
focusing on its object, its method and its aim. To understand the distinctive feature of the object of pragmatic
anthropology, it is crucial to distinguish it from what Kant calls
3. The pragmatic intent of Kant’s anthropology physical geography. Physical geography consists of a positivist
and naturalistic inventory of the world.24 Its first part presents an
To begin with, I want to draw attention to the overall pragmatic archaeology of the earth which focuses on winds, waters and the var-
dimension of Kant’s Anthropology: ‘Pragmatic knowledge of man ious transformations that have taken place in the natural world. Its
aims at what man makes, can, or should make of himself as a freely second part examines what is on the earth by exploring successively
acting being’.19 A number of commentators have attempted to pro- men, animals, plants and minerals.25 Two sections specifically study
vide definitions of what Kant means by ‘pragmatic’ here. For instance, human phenomena: the first section of the second part entitled ‘Of
according to Frierson, the adjective ‘pragmatic’ involves: (1) one’s man’ and the third part entitled ‘Rough observation of the main nat-
happiness, (2) the whole sphere of the practical, and/or (3) the use ural curios in all countries, according to a geographical order’.26 The
of others to achieve one’s ends.20 Wood highlights four senses of section ‘Of man’ examines facts about men’s different skin colours,
pragmatic: (1) pragmatic vs. physiological, (2) pragmatic vs. scholas- their physical characteristics (on the one hand their external bodily
tic, (3) pragmatic as useful, (4) pragmatic as prudential.21 Finally, characteristics—the form of the face, the eyes, body hairs—and on
Louden distinguishes the following senses: (1) the skilful use of other the other their physical abilities—running speed, sight, endurance),
human beings, (2) the ability to find means for one’s happiness, (3) their diet (from hunting, gathering, breeding or fishing), the changes
the ability to set one’s own ends, (4) man’s moral concerns.22 they make to their appearance (weighted ears, nose-rings, tongue-
Of course, I do not wish to deny that these various aspects exist rings, emasculation, body-painting), and their tastes (relative to their
within Kant’s use of ‘pragmatic’—he himself notes these distinc- different senses). The section on natural curios surveys the demogra-
tions in a number of places, and they will become very useful when phy, culture and customs found in Asia, Africa, Europe and America.
we focus on specific aspects of the Anthropology. However, what I The crucial feature of physical geography is that it does not study
want to suggest is that the overall approach of pragmatic anthro- man as a free being, but rather as an inhabitant of the earth like
pology should not be fragmented, at least not to begin with. For plants, animals and minerals—it considers man as one type of
what is needed is a principle unifying all of its different meanings. ‘thing’ on earth. In this sense, its descriptions do not refer to men’s
My claim is that by characterising his anthropology as pragmatic, intentions, but are limited instead to external descriptions of social
Kant fundamentally stresses the fact that it deals with the field behaviour and physical appearances. This is, I believe, the essential
of human action as a whole. And in this respect, I will suggest that difference between physical geography and pragmatic anthropol-
instead of multiplying the definitions of the ‘pragmatic’, it is more ogy.27 In this sense, it is crucial to note that for Kant, both physical
helpful to distinguish between the object, the method and the aim geography and pragmatic anthropology are pragmatic disciplines in
of pragmatic anthropology understood as having to do with human the sense that they are both useful ‘for life’—that is, they are equally
action.23 As I will show in this section, Kant’s anthropology is prag- pragmatic with respect to their aims. As Kant writes in the introduc-
matic in three senses: its object is pragmatic insofar as it studies tion to his Physical geography, ‘Physical geography is thus the first

Kant (1996), p. 3 [7:119]; my emphasis.
Frierson (2003), p. 80.
Wood (1999), pp. 202–205.
Louden (2000), pp. 69–70.
This approach is inspired by Sturm’s conclusion that ‘In Kant’s view, sciences can be defined and consequently differentiated from one another in terms of (i) their method of
inquiry and justification; (ii) their specific objects, that is, their subject matter; (iii) and by their aim’ (Sturm, 2000, p. 127).
Physical geography should not, however, be mistaken for the discipline of natural history. Natural history (physiogony) identifies the inner relations among the various
species according to their reconstructed biological history and their ability to propagate, whilst a description of nature (physiography) describes the physical diversity of nature
and organises it according to similarities. It seems plausible to understand Kant’s lectures on physical geography as belonging to physiography rather than physiogony (see Kant,
2001, p. 54 [8:163]; (1987), p. 315 [5:428]).
As May remarks, ‘The notion of the ‘Oberflache’ [surface of the earth] must be taken very seriously in Kant’s work on geography, because he generally sticks quite close to this
idea as setting the bounds for geography’ (May, 1970, p. 85). For instance, the study of the causes of earthquakes and volcanoes, which originate within the interior of the earth, is
not the task of the geographer but of the physicist. The geographer is concerned only with the effects or results, on the earth’s surface, of what happens under its surface.
[9:311, 377]; my translation.
In this respect, I disagree with Eze when he writes that ‘while anthropology studies humans or human reality as they are available to the internal sense, geography studies the
same phenomena as they are presented or available to the external sense’ (Eze, 1995, p. 203). Similarly, May writes that the distinction between outer and inner sense ‘is of crucial
importance for [Kant’s] separation of anthropology from geography, since the world as the object of outer sense is nature, and hence the concern of geography, whereas the world
as the object of inner sense is man conceived as soul or self, and is the concern of anthropology’ (May, 1970, p. 108). Contrary to these claims, I believe that the internal/external,
or inner/outer, criterion is not the most suitable to the context of the science of man. For anthropology does not consist solely of an investigation of inner sense: if it does begin
with introspection, and if knowledge through inner experience is ‘of great importance’ to anthropology, it is not sufficient and some data has to be gathered from the outer sense
(Kant, 1996, p. 27 [7:143]).
510 A.A. Cohen / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 39 (2008) 506–514

part of knowledge of the world. It belongs to an idea which is called of the other animals . . . rather these materials can be found only
the propaedeutic to understanding our knowledge of the world. . . . it in human actions’. (Trans. Louden, 2000, p. 68 [8:56])
is this knowledge that is useful in all possible circumstances of life’.28
Hence, Kant’s anthropology is ‘pragmatic’ in the sense that it studies
Where they differ, however, is in the object they study. For, the object
man not through what he is (physical geography), how he functions
of pragmatic anthropology is man considered as a free rational being,
(physiological anthropology), or what he feels and thinks (empirical
whilst the object of physical geography is man considered as one
psychology), but through what he does ‘as a freely acting being’.32
‘thing’ on earth, and thus independently from his intentionality.
This claim no doubt raises thorny issues within Kant’s system,
Kant defines pragmatic anthropology not only by contrast with
most importantly the issue of whether his account of freedom fits
physical geography, but also in opposition to physiological
with his definition of anthropology. Kant is in fact known for
defending fairly implausible views on the issue of the compatibi-
He who ponders about natural phenomena, for example about lism between freedom and determinism. He has even been de-
the causes for the faculty of memory, can make sense (in the scribed as claiming that our free actions somehow occur outside
Cartesian fashion) of the traces of impressions which keep lin- of time, in some intelligible world, whilst their effects, in the
gering in our brain; but, in doing so, he has to admit that he empirical world, are completely determined by natural laws. What
is a mere spectator in this game of his imagination and that is clear, however, is that for Kant, from the pragmatic perspective
he has to leave everything entirely to Nature, since he knows of human action, there is no doubt that we do have access to,
neither the cerebral nerves and filaments nor their operation and an experience of, freedom. For instance, as noted by Wood,
when they carry out his intentions. Such speculative theorizing Kant understands our empirical capacities to plan for the future,
[physiological knowledge of man] is a sheer waste of time. to select between means to our ends, and to be motivated by moral
(Kant, 1996, p. 3 [7:119]) considerations, as empirical signs of our freedom.33 This suggests
that in the Anthropology, Kant displays views that are more plausible
This passage should be read as a criticism of the work of Ernst Plat-
than the metaphysical picture he is commonly known for.34
ner, and in particular of his definition of anthropology. Platner con-
ceives of anthropology as the synthesis of the physical science of
3.2. The method of pragmatic anthropology
physiology and anatomy on the one hand, and psychology on the
other: it studies body and soul in their mutual relations, limitations
Kant’s anthropological method is pragmatic insofar as it in-
and interactions.29 Kant directly rejects physiological approaches to
volves knowledge gained through interacting with its object rather
anthropology in a letter to Hertz: ‘the subtle and, to my view, eter-
than merely the knowledge of an observer.
nally futile inquiries as to the manner in which bodily organs are con-
nected with thought I omit entirely’.30 For Kant, physiological Idiomatic expressions such as ‘he knows the world’ and ‘he
investigations of human nature do not belong to pragmatic anthro- knows his way about the world’ are widely separated in mean-
pology. A number of passages from the Anthropology reiterate and ing. The first implies only the understanding of the game which
justify this claim. Firstly, these investigations have not reached a suf- he has witnessed, whereas the second implies actual participa-
ficient level of scientific certainty to be reliable: ‘physicians and phys- tion in it. (Kant, 1996, p. 4 [7:120]35)
iologists are generally still not advanced enough to see deeply into
It is in this sense that pragmatic anthropological observations differ
the mechanisms inside a human being’.31 Secondly, and more impor-
from straightforward theoretical observations: anthropology re-
tantly, insofar as the purpose of Kant’s anthropology is pragmatic, it
quires the interaction with man, or rather, men. This requirement
cannot make any use of physiological knowledge in this context—
is in fact closely linked to the object of pragmatic anthropology as
physiology can certainly be of some use to doctors, but not to men
I just defined it; for, although observation is necessary to anthropol-
who want to use anthropological knowledge to realise their purposes.
ogy, it needs to be supplemented by interaction in order to access
Contrary to the disciplines such as physical geography, physio-
man as a freely acting being. In other words, we cannot know
logical anthropology and empirical psychology which study man in
man as a freely acting being, that is, as having motives, intentions,
terms of his physical, physiological or psychological nature, Kant’s
purposes and so on, through observation alone (for it would amount
pragmatic anthropology adopts as its starting point that man is the
to treating man as another ‘thing’ on earth); to do so, we need to
only being who acts according to the purposes he sets for himself.
interact with him.
The proper materials for anthropology ‘are to be found neither Kant further specifies that anthropology requires the interac-
in metaphysics nor in a museum of natural history in which tion with one’s neighbours as well as with foreigners through
the skeleton of the human being can be compared with that travel (or travel books if travel is not possible);36 and he even

Quoted from Kant’s Physical geography [2:443] in May (1970), p. 256.
See Platner (2000). For an account of Platner’s views, see Zammito (2002), pp. 250–253. Zammito notes that in the lecture course for 1772–1773 [25:i:9], Kant criticised
physiological approaches to anthropology targeting Charles Bonnet instead of Platner (see Zammito, 2002, p. 469). For a historical description of the various ‘medical’ or
‘physiological’ studies of man contemporary with Kant, with a particular emphasis on the works of Johann Metzger and Platner, see Lestition (1985), pp. 681–725.
Kant (1999), p. 141 [10:145–146].
Kant (1996), p. 111 [7:214]. See also Ibid., p. 197 [7:287].
Kant (1996), p. 3 [7:119]. See also anthropology ‘observes solely the actual behaviour of man’ (Kant, 1997, p. 42 [27:244]) and ‘the human being is the only free-acting being
on earth’ (trans. Louden, 2000, p. 67 [25:733]).
Wood (2005), p. 99. Of course, a lot more can be said about this issue. See for instance Jacobs & Kain (2003), p. 5, Louden (2000), p. 19, and Gregor (1974), p. xvii.
This has been convincingly argued in Wood (2005), pp. 98–100, (1999), p. 206.
As Makkreel writes, ‘whereas Kant’s theoretical subject of understanding adopts a kind of view from nowhere on nature, the subject of anthropological reflection is situated
amidst the world as the sphere of action’ (Makkreel, 2003, p. 159). Here, one can think of d’Alembert: ‘One does not know a country simply by owning a map of it; one must
undertake the journey oneself’ (Alembert, 1770, p. I.99; my translation).
Kant (1996), p. 4 [7:120]. Kant’s comment on travel books is particularly amusing. He complements it with a footnote which remarks that ‘A large city like Königsberg . . . can
well be taken as an appropriate place for enlarging one’s knowledge of people as well as of the world at large, where such knowledge can be acquired without travel’ (Kant, 1996,
pp. 4–5 [7:120]). As is well known, Kant never left Königsberg and all his knowledge of the world is based on intense readings (travel reports, history, etc.). His sedentariness has
been the object of much criticism, in particular from Georg Forster who saw Kant as an armchair traveller. For a critical analysis of Kant’s anthropological sources, see Eze (1995),
pp. 228–232.
A.A. Cohen / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 39 (2008) 506–514 511

recommends that before going about in the world, one should inves- by the participants for their behaviour do not suffice to explain
tigate one’s neighbours: why they do what they do, from his perspective, the important
question becomes ‘what actually happened?’ rather than ‘how it
One must, however, have gained his knowledge of man through
is viewed by the participants?’ Thus in the case of games, partici-
interaction with one’s fellow man at home if one wishes to
pants believe that they are playing together in order to have a good
know what to look for abroad in order to increase one’s range
time, whilst the anthropologist accounts for the game by its natural
of the knowledge of man. (Ibid. p. 4 [7:120])
function, namely the testing of their respective strength. The
The knowledge of one’s neighbours is supposed to be the ground, or ground for the latter’s claim is that if the explanation of the exis-
the guiding thread, which one then uses to investigate human phe- tence of games were the fact that the participants want to have
nomena abroad. With this knowledge in hand, one, once abroad, fun, the practice would stop since it is far from being the best means
knows ‘what to look for’. This suggests that for Kant, anthropologi- to realise their purpose—just recall that boys’ games often end in
cal inquiries have to be carried out in accordance with a certain re- tears rather than smiles.
search program. The prominence of teleology in Kant’s anthropological method,
and in particular the fact that Kant encourages anthropologists to
We say of the person who has travelled much that he has seen
assume the same teleological principle used in the investigation
the world. But more is needed for knowledge of the world than
of non-human nature, may seem to suggest that far from being
just seeing it. He who wants to profit from his journey must
essentially pragmatic (and in this sense interested in ‘what man
have a plan beforehand. (Kant, 1970, p. 256 [9:157])
makes of himself’), anthropology is rather naturalistic (and in this
Going about in the human world is not sufficient to produce accu- sense concerned with ‘what Nature makes of man’). This impres-
rate knowledge of man. A number of methodological principles sion is reinforced by Kant’s various claims about Nature’s purposes
are necessary to organise our inquiries and gather data; without for the human species, as exemplified by his remarks on boys’
them, one only ‘gropes’ in the dark: ‘without such a program . . . games. The worry, then, is that anthropology would really study
all acquired knowledge can provide nothing but fragmentary grop- man as determined by Nature rather than as free.
ing, and no science at all’.37 The guiding principles and procedures of However, providing we keep in mind that the pragmatic per-
Kant’s anthropological method are, I believe, essentially teleological. spective of human action is distinct from the metaphysical picture
However, Kant does not offer an explicit ‘critique’ of the use of tele- about compatibilism, there is a very straightforward way of under-
ology in anthropology. A plausible reason for this absence is that the standing Kant’s claim about Nature’s purposes for man. Namely,
critical analysis of teleology can be found in the Critique of judgment. from a pragmatic point of view, man is a biological organism as
As is now well known, the guiding principle of Kant’s biological well as a free intentional being. And our everyday life is full of in-
method, which is based on the principle of teleology in order to stances of Nature’s constraints on us; for instance, we have to sleep
maximise the intelligibility of the world, is that ‘Everything in to survive. This fact does not mean we are not free. Clearly, it
the world is good for something or other; nothing in it is gratu- means that we are not free to stay awake for the whole duration
itous’.38 This methodological principle is pragmatic because it sup- of our lives. But it does not mean that we are completely deter-
plies a heuristic maxim with which we can methodically mined either. For there are many different ways of fulfilling our
investigate the world in order to identify purposes. Kant borrows natural needs, and we are free to do so the way we please. The dif-
this principle from biology and applies it to anthropology in the form ferent ways we chose to fulfil our needs are in fact the very expres-
of the following principle: ‘Everything in the human world is good sion of our freedom. For instance, in the case of sleep, we can do so
for something or other’. This entails that all human actions can be through siesta, power naps, late morning lie-ins or early
explained in terms of purposes, even when the purposes are not bedtimes.40
those men set themselves. In this sense, the original worry disappears since there is no dif-
This is possible insofar as Kant understands Nature has having a ficulty in saying that anthropology studies man as free, and at the
grand design for the human species, namely its survival. To accom- same time that it studies the ways in which Nature restricts or im-
plish its design, it imposes certain constraints on human nature in pacts on human nature. In fact, since man’s freedom is in many
the form of biological predispositions.39 This appears most clearly ways constrained by his nature, anthropology should study these
in Kant’s account of boys’ games: constraints. This requirement is particularly pressing insofar as
Kant’s anthropology has a pragmatic intent. For the study of what
Boy’s games [. . .] are altogether daring enterprises deliberately
constrains human action will be necessary to the elaboration of
spurred on by the wisdom of Nature so that they all test their
useful anthropological guidance. This should become clear if we
strength in a competition with others. [. . .] Two [. . .] contenders
turn to the aims of anthropology.
believe they are playing between themselves; but in reality nat-
ure plays with both of them. Reason can clearly convince them
3.3. The aim of pragmatic anthropology
of this fact if they consider how badly the means they have
selected are suited to their purpose. (Kant, 1996, p. 183 [7:275])
To begin with, I want to emphasise that the claims of pragmatic
This suggests that when the means chosen by man seem counter- anthropology are literally ‘practical’—they comprise advice, recom-
productive, or at least ill suited to his purposes, we should turn to mendations, counsels, guidance, warnings and even admonitions.41
the social or natural function of the behaviour in order to explain In this regard, it should be noted that Kant’s lectures on anthropol-
it. Insofar as the anthropologist believes that the reasons offered ogy, on which his published Anthropology is based, were intended

Kant (1996), p. 4 [7:120]. In this respect, Kant’s anthropological method appears to be quite similar to the one he puts forward for scientific method. For the ideas of reason are
for Kant guiding threads which firstly give a direction to our scientific inquiries, and secondly push us to go further in our investigations of nature.
Kant (1987), p. 259 [5:379]. This principle is based on the model of an organised being understood as a natural purpose: ‘an organised product of nature is one in which
everything is a purpose and reciprocally also a means’ (ibid., p. 255 [5:376]). For organisms are the beings ‘which first give objective reality to the concept of a purpose’ (ibid.). See
Cohen (2004) for an account of Kant’s views on organisms.
This may seem surprising to those unfamiliar with Kant’s philosophy of biology, but Kant has in fact a very rich, biological account of human nature. See Cohen (2006) for an
account of this claim.
I have expounded this claim in Cohen (in press).
In this context, ‘practical’ is taken in its ordinary sense as opposed to its properly Kantian sense—namely, as meaning ‘useful’ rather than ‘moral’.
512 A.A. Cohen / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 39 (2008) 506–514

to teach students how to apply what they learnt at university to their and in this sense, as suggested in the preceding section, it includes
future profession as well as to the conduct of their life in general.42 the knowledge of ‘what Nature makes of man’.
In other words, these lectures were meant to show students how to This appears clearly in Kant’s discussion of human tempera-
use their knowledge and talents as ‘citizens of the world’: ments, which he defines as belonging to the appetitive power (sen-
sibility), and thus to ‘what Nature makes of man’.48 Four
The course ‘which I [Kant] therewith advertise, belongs to an
temperaments are identified: the sanguine, who ‘is carefree and full
idea which I have developed for a utilitarian academic instruc-
of expectation; he attributes great importance to everything for the
tion, which I may term the preliminary exercise in the knowl-
moment, and at the next moment he may not give it another
edge of the world. This knowledge of the world is what serves
thought’; the melancholic, who ‘attributes great importance to all
to provide the pragmatic [dimension] for all the otherwise
things that concern him’; the choleric, who ‘is hot-tempered, and .
attained sciences and aptitudes, so that they are usable not
. . quickly ablaze like a straw fire’; finally, the phlegmatic, who has
merely in the schools but in life. Thereby the prepared student
‘a tendency to inactivity’.49 What is crucial to note for my present
may be introduced to the stage where he will practice his voca-
purpose is that the anthropological knowledge of temperaments is
tion, namely the world’. (Trans. Zammito, 2002, pp. 285–286
pragmatically useful, both prudentially and morally.
Firstly, in its prudential dimension, if we know with whom we
To accomplish this task, Kant focuses on knowledge ‘of practical are dealing (namely, what temperament a person has), we will
consequences’, that is to say knowledge that is useful to one’s con- know what to expect from him. For instance, if we are dealing with
duct in life.43 This knowledge has an extremely broad scope: it dis- a sanguine man, we should not expect him to keep his promises;
closes ‘the sources of all the [practical] sciences, the science of whilst if we are dealing with a melancholic man, we can count
morality, of skill, of human intercourse, of the way to educate and on him since keeping his word is dear to him.50 Moreover, knowing
govern human beings, and thus of everything that pertains to the about temperaments is useful for the purpose of ‘controlling the
practical’.44 inclinations of other people in order to direct and manage them
As already noted, Kant begins his Anthropology with an explicit according to one’s intentions’.51 For instance, knowing that a san-
reference to its aims: ‘Pragmatic knowledge of man aims at what guine man ‘is good-natured enough to give help to others’, or that
man makes, can, or should make of himself as a freely acting the choleric is ‘reluctant to understand business himself’, can be
being’.45 This remark is fundamental, yet far from unambiguous. used to further one’s own purposes.52
The ‘make’ clearly refers to the descriptive part of the project. The Secondly in its moral dimension, anthropology teaches us that
‘should make’ is prescriptive (and it will be fundamental to elucidate certain temperaments are more prone to passions than others.
the aim(s) of the prescriptions), whereas the ‘can make’ can be For instance, the melancholic has no passions, whilst the sanguine
understood in terms of possibility (i.e. the scope and limits of man’s has a tendency to emotional volatility. And since passions hinder
possible influence on himself). However, in order clearly to distin- our ability to rationally choose our purposes, anthropology recom-
guish between them, we should return to the overall pragmatic mends the exercise and strengthening of our self-control in order
aim of anthropology. to overcome, or at least refine, our passions.53 This, Kant suggests,
Insofar as pragmatic anthropology is defined as having to do can be done through politeness and civilised social intercourse:
with the field of action, the guidance it provides encompasses
though it be not virtue, it is still a practice and cultivation of vir-
the whole realm of human action, that is to say the three levels
tue, when people conduct themselves in company in a civilised
of praxis identified in Section 2: the technical, the prudential and
fashion; they thereby become gentler and more refined, and
the moral dimensions.46 It concerns the development of skills (for
practise goodness in small matters. (Kant, 1997, p. 210
instance, ‘repeated experiences help to develop skill in empirical
anticipation’), the means of achieving happiness (for instance, ‘the
most basic and easiest means of alleviating all grief is the thought Although, as Kant crucially notes, politeness is not virtue, it will
. . . that life itself and the enjoyment of it, so far as it depends upon ease the realisation of one’s moral duty by facilitating self-mastery.
circumstances, has no value of its own’), as well as the helps and hin- To take another example, someone endowed with a charitable
drances to morality (for instance, ‘the illusion of the good inside our- temperament (for instance, the sanguine who ‘is good-natured en-
selves must be wiped out, and the veil, with which self-love conceals ough to give help to others’) will be more sympathetic to human
our moral infirmity, must be torn away’).47 This guidance is based on distress, and thus more able to detect situations where he ought
the knowledge of what is necessary for man to achieve his purposes, to exercise his duty of benevolence.54 This does not mean that sym-

Kant’s lectures on anthropology were ‘popular lectures’ attended by and partly intended for the general public (see Kant, 1996, p. 6 [7:122]). For a presentation of Kant’s
lectures on anthropology and their reception, see Lestition (1985), pp. 752–766, and Brandt & Stark (1997), pp. vii–cli.
Kant (1996), p. 6 [7:122].
Kant (1999), p. 141 [10:145].
Kant (1996), p. 3 [7:119]; my emphasis.
Kant sometimes calls the ‘prudential’ dimension of human action ‘pragmatic’; for instance, ‘The first imperative could also be called technical (belonging to art), the second
pragmatic (belonging to welfare), the third moral (belonging to free conduct as such, that is, moral)’ (Kant, 1999, p. 69 [4:416–417]). See also Kant (1999), pp. 565–566 [6:444–
446]. However, far from entailing an inconsistency in Kant’s account, it merely implies that the word ‘pragmatic’ can be understood in two distinct senses: in a narrow sense, as
‘prudential’ and having to do with welfare and happiness, and in a broad sense, as ‘practical’ and having to do with the field of action in general.
Kant (1996), p. 77 [7:185], p. 141 [7:239], and p. 39 [7:152].
As Kant writes, ‘what Nature makes of man belongs to temperament (wherein the subject is for the most part passive)’ (Kant, 1996, p. 203 [7:292]).
Ibid., pp. 198–201 [7:288–290]. For a detailed account of Kant’s concept of temperament, in particular relative to the historical tradition of the temperaments, see Larrimore
See Kant (1996), pp. 198–199 [7:288].
Ibid., p. 179 [7:271].
Ibid., pp. 198–199 [7:288].
‘passions are cancerous sores for pure practical reason’ (Ibid., p. 173 [7:266]), and the despotism of desires ‘rivets [man] to certain natural things and renders [him] unable to
do [his] own selecting’ (Kant, 1987, p. 319 [5:432]).
Kant (1996), p. 198 [7:288]. This is why sympathy can become an indirect duty: ‘Nature has already implanted in human beings receptivity to these [sympathetic] feelings.
But to use this as a means to promoting active and rational benevolence is still a particular, though only a conditional, duty’ (Kant, 1999, p. 575 [6:456]).
A.A. Cohen / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 39 (2008) 506–514 513

pathy has any moral worth in itself, but rather that cultivating sym- However, one may be tempted to argue that the analogy of the
pathy will help the realisation of one’s moral purposes. map, though well-suited to the technical and prudential uses of
The moral guidance of anthropology thus consists in recom- anthropology, fits less comfortably in the moral case insofar as,
mending what helps the realisation of duty (for instance, polite- properly speaking, we have no moral end that is analogous to the
ness and sympathy) and warning against what hinders it (for first two types of ends. This is because, for Kant, ends never carry
instance, passions). Of course, these helps and hindrances are by moral worth. Only motivation for the sake of duty does.59 This
no means a guarantee of virtue. For being sympathetic and polite would threaten the aptness of the metaphor of the map.
is not sufficient to be genuinely moral; but it certainly helps.55 I believe that this worry can be addressed in two steps: first by
This confirms that pragmatic anthropology spells out the vari- explaining in what sense we can be said to have moral ends; and
ous paths available for man to reach his purposes, whether techni- second, by clarifying that moral anthropology has nothing to do
cal, prudential or moral. I believe that in this respect, it can be best with the identification of these moral ends.
described as a ‘map-making venture’, thus extending Kaulbach’s First, it is clear that for Kant, the moral choices I make are
analysis of Kant’s philosophy of history to his conception of the determined by practical reasoning using the categorical impera-
role of anthropology: man uses anthropology ‘Just as a traveller tive; and this process is independent from the ends I may hap-
helps himself to a map, in order to identify the way and the desti- pen to have. However, it is not because I am motivated to act for
nation’.56 A difficulty with Kaulbach’s interpretation of the metaphor the sake of duty alone that I do not have moral ends. For, what
of the map, however, is that it seems to assimilate the path and the the moral law actually commands me to do is precisely to rea-
destination. A similar difficulty can be found in Louden when he lise certain ends: for instance, my own perfection and the happi-
writes that ‘without moral anthropology, we are travellers without ness of others.60 Thus we do have moral ends, although crucially
a map who know neither our destination nor our means of reaching these ends acquire moral worth only insofar as I am motivated to
it’.57 realise them because this is what duty commands me to do. If this
As I have tried to show, anthropology does not in fact reveal is correct, then defining the moral guidance of anthropology in
our destination; rather, it shows how we can reach this desti- terms of identifying the helps and hindrances to the realisation
nation. In other words, it does not have to do with the identifi- of one’s moral purposes does not stand in tension with Kant’s
cation of purposes (‘where to go?’), but rather with the ethics.61
identification of the path to be followed in order to realise one’s The second part of the worry can be addressed if we further re-
purposes (‘how to get there?’). Its role is not to clear doubts about fine the metaphor of the map. Namely, a more suitable metaphor
what I should, or ought to, do—or put slightly differently, where I for the role of anthropology could be that of a global positioning
should, or ought to, be heading. Desires and inclinations provide system (GPS) or ‘car navigator’. For the GPS model suggests that
the basis for where I should go (that is, prudential purposes—in the practical reasoning that leads to the identification of the desti-
their general form, happiness and well-being): ‘prudence is the nation not only differs from, but more importantly is independent
capacity to choose the best means to our happiness. Happiness of, the process of determining the means to reaching it. For
consists in the satisfaction of all of our inclinations’.58 And reason instance, the moral law tells me that I ought to tell the truth. How-
clearly indicates my moral destination, namely the realisation of ever, what it does not tell me is how I can tell the truth, in partic-
the moral law: ular if I am in a situation where I am tempted to lie because it suits
my self-interest. Anthropology does so. For instance, it teaches me
reason by itself and independently of all appearances commands
how I can control my countervailing inclinations so as to be able to
what ought to happen; that, accordingly, actions of which the
tell the truth even when I have strong prudential reasons not to do
world has perhaps so far given no example, and whose practica-
bility might be very much doubted by one who bases everything
The metaphor of the GPS finds further support in Kant’s use of
on experience, are still inflexibly commanded by reason . . . by
another metaphor, that of the compass: ‘common human reason,
means of a priori grounds. (Kant, 1999a, p. 62 [4:408])
with this compass in hand (the moral law), knows very well how
In this sense, it is only once their destination has been identified to distinguish in every case that comes up what is good and what
(either prudentially or morally) that human agents can then benefit is evil, what is in conformity with duty or contrary to duty’.63 This
from a map that describes the path they should follow in order to supports my interpretation since it indicates that if ethics is the
reach it. Anthropology supplies this map in the form of a topograph- compass that points to our moral destination, anthropology is the
ical sketch of the whole. GPS that shows us the path that leads to it.

This is due to the fact that genuine virtue has to be grafted onto a morally good character: ‘We are, to a high degree, cultivated beyond bearing by all manner of social
convention and propriety. But we are a long way from being able to regard ourselves as moral. For the idea of morality belongs to culture; and yet using this idea only in reference
to semblances of morality, e.g., love of honour and outward propriety, constitutes mere civilisation [. . .] All good that is not grafted onto a morally-good character is nothing but
illusion and glistering misery’ (Kant, 1983, p. 36 [8:26]).
Kaulbach (1975), pp. 70, 78–79, trans. Louden (2003), p. 226. It provides man with ‘a plan, a map of the whole, within which one is able to determine one’s own position and
can trace out for oneself the path by which one can reach one’s chosen goals’ (Kaulbach, 1966, p. 61, trans. Louden, 2003, p. 226).
Louden (2006), p. 362.
Trans. Kain (2003), p. 235 [25:413]. For a very clear account of prudence and prudential ends in Kant, see Ibid., pp. 240–241 in particular.
Thanks to Sasha Mudd for pointing this out to me. For Kant, the only source of moral worth lies in the performance of an action for the sake of fulfilling our moral duty alone.
Thus, an action will not be morally good either because it is good in itself, or because it produces good consequences; rather, what will make an action morally good is the fact that
it is motivated by our decision to act only because the moral law commands it.
See Kant (1999), pp. 517–520. For an argument that goes along similar lines, see Wood (2005), pp. 146–149.
The idea of a moral anthropology has recently been the object of much debate amongst Kant scholars (see for instance Frierson, 2003, Louden, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2006, and
Schmidt, 2007). Unfortunately, due to space restrictions, I cannot engage with this debate. However, it suffices to note that I restrict the moral role of anthropology to the
examination of the worldly helps and hindrances to moral agency, thus distinguishing it clearly from the role of ethics.
In the Metaphysics of morals, Kant describes this process in terms of ethical gymnastics: ‘Ethical gymnastics, therefore, consists only in combating natural impulses sufficiently
to be able to master them when a situation comes up in which they threaten morality’ (Kant, 1999, p. 598 [6:485]).
Ibid., p. 16 [4:404].
514 A.A. Cohen / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 39 (2008) 506–514

4. Conclusion Cohen, A. A. (2006). Kant on epigenesis, monogenesis and human nature: The
biological premises of anthropology. Studies in History and Philosophy of
Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 37(4), 675–693.
In conclusion, I would like to suggest that Kant’s overall contri- Cohen, A. A. (2008). Kant on alienology and anthropology: The opacity of human
bution to the question ‘what is man?’ is in fact twofold. This paper motivation and its anthropological implications. Kantian Review, 13(2).
Eze, E. C. (1995). The color of reason: The idea of ‘race’ in Kant’s Anthropology. In K.
has focused on its positive aspect, what could be called ‘Kant’s
M. Faull (Ed.), Anthropology and the German Enlightenment: Perspectives on
pragmatic turn’; a negative aspect, however, can be found in his humanity (pp. 200–241). London & Toronto: Associated University Press.
theoretical writings. More precisely, the ‘Paralogisms’, in the Cri- Frierson, P. (2003). Freedom and anthropology in Kant’s moral philosophy. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
tique of pure reason, can, in this context, be read as a criticism of
Gregor, M. J. (1974). Introduction. In M. J. Gregor (Ed.), Anthropology from a
traditional answers to the question ‘what is man?’. For what they pragmatic point of view (pp. ix–xxvii). The Hague: M. Nijhoff.
suggest is that this question can potentially instigate, and has his- Kain, P. (2003). Prudential reason in Kant’s anthropology. In B. Jacobs, & P. Kain
torically lead to, three pitfalls—pitfalls epitomised by the likes of (Eds.), Essays on Kant’s anthropology (pp. 230–265). Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Descartes and Leibniz.64 Firstly, it calls for an ontological project, Kant, I. (1885). Kant’s Introduction to logic (T. K. Abbott, Trans.). London: Longmans,
traditionally essentialist and substantialist. Secondly, it leads to an Green.
individualist rational psychology that defines man merely as the Kant, I. (1910–). Kants gesammelte Schriften (Königlich Preussischen Akademie der
Wissenschaften, Ed.) (29 vols. to date). Berlin: G. Reimer [later W. de Gruyter].
being who says ‘I’.65 Thirdly, it posits man within the system of nat- Kant, I. (1929). Critique of pure reason (N. Kemp Smith, Trans.). London: Macmillan.
ure, thus attempting to know human nature as a thing in the world, (First published 1781)
an object. In this sense, the Kantian project can be understood as a Kant, I. (1970). Introduction to physical geography (J. A. May, Trans.). In J. A. May,
Kant’s concept of geography and its relation to recent geographical thought (pp.
dismissal of the question ‘what is man?’ insofar as it calls for a static, 255-264). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
substantialist answer which cannot tally with man’s specific fea- Kant, I. (1983). Perpetual peace and other essays on politics, history and morals (T.
tures, features I have defined in terms of praxis. Humphrey, Trans.). Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.
Kant, I. (1987). Critique of judgment (W. S. Pluhar, Trans.). Indianapolis: Hackett
Following the pragmatic turn operated by Kant’s anthropology,
Publishing. (First published 1790)
the question ‘what is man?’ should be replaced by the question Kant, I. (1996). Anthropology from a pragmatic point of view (V. L. Dowdell, Trans.).
‘what can man make of himself?’: an enquiry into meaning thus Carbondale & Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press. (First published
being substituted for an enquiry about essence. This shift entails
Kant, I. (1997). Lectures on ethics (P. Heath, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge
that the meaning attached to human nature, far from being an University Press.
immediate given, is now defined as the result from the constructive Kant, I. (1999a). Practical philosophy (M. J. Gregor, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge
work that man does freely, ‘as a citizen of the world’, through his ac- University Press.
Kant, I. (1999b). Correspondence (A. Zweig, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge
tions, his culture and his civilisation, on his natural dispositions.66 University Press.
Kant, I. (2001). On the use of teleological principles in philosophy (J. M. Mikkelsen,
The sum total of findings generated by pragmatic anthropology Trans.). In R. Bernasconi (Ed.), Race (pp. 37–56). Oxford: Blackwell. (First
as to the classification of man and the characterisation of his published 1788)
development is as follows: Man is destined by his reason to live Kant, I. (2002). On a recently prominent tone of superiority in philosophy (P. Heath,
Trans.). In H. Allison, & P. Heath (Eds.), Theoretical philosophy after 1781.
in a society of other people, and in this society he has to culti- Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
vate himself, civilise himself, and apply himself to a moral purpose Kant, I. (2003). On education (A. Churton, Trans.). Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.
by the arts and sciences. (Kant, 1996, pp. 241–242 [7:324]; my Kaulbach, F. (1966). Weltorientierung, Weltkenntnis und pragmatische Vernunft
bei Kant. In F. Kaulbach, & J. Ritter (Eds.), Kritik und Metaphysik: Studien: Heinz
emphasis) Heimsoeth zum achtzigsten Geburtstag (pp. 60–75). Berlin: W. de Gruyter.
Kaulbach, F. (1975). Welchen nutzen gibt Kant der Geschichtsphilosophie. Kant-
This, I have argued, amounts to a decisive re-evaluation of tradi-
Studien, 66, 65–84.
tional conceptions of human nature, a re-evaluation that redirects Lagier, R. (2004). Les races humaines selon Kant. Paris: PUF.
our inquiries towards man’s acting in the world, ‘what man makes, Larrimore, M. (1999). Sublime waste: Kant on the destiny of the ‘races’. Canadian
Journal of Philosophy, 25, 99–125.
can, or should make of himself as a freely acting being’.67
Larrimore, M. (2001). Substitutes for wisdom: Kant’s practical thought and the
tradition of the temperaments. Journal of the History of Philosophy, 39(2),
Acknowledgements 259–286.
Lestition, S. O. (1985). Kant’s philosophical anthropology: Texts and historical contexts,
continuity and change. Ph.D. thesis, University of Chicago.
Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Kant work- Louden, R. (2000). Kant’s impure ethics: From rational beings to human beings. New
shop in the University of Cambridge, as well as at the University of York & Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Leeds and Manchester Metropolitan University. I would like to Louden, R. (2003). The second part of morals. In B. Jacobs & P. Kain (Eds.), Essays on
Kant’s Anthropology (pp. 60–84). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
thank all the participants for their constructive comments, and in Louden, R. (2006). Applying Kant’s ethics: The role of anthropology. In G. Bird (Ed.),
particular Sasha Mudd for her insightful response to my paper at A companion to Kant (pp. 350–363). London: Blackwell.
the Cambridge workshop. Makkreel, R. (2003). The cognition–knowledge distinction in Kant and Dilthey and
the implications for psychology and self-understanding. Studies in History and
Philosophy of Science, 34, 149–164.
References May, J. A. (1970). Kant’s concept of geography and its relation to recent geographical
thought. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Adams, W. Y. (1998). The philosophical roots of anthropology. Stanford: CSLI Platner, E. (2000). Anthropologie für Artze und Weltweise. Hildesheim: Olms. (First
Publications. published 1772)
Alembert, J. Le Rond d’. (1770). Mélanges de littérature. Paris. Schmidt, C. (2007). Kant’s transcendental, empirical, pragmatic and moral
Brandt, R., & Stark, W. (1997). Einleitung. In W. Stark, & R. Brandt (Eds.), Vorlesungen anthropology. Kant-Studien, 98, 156–182.
über Anthropologie (pp. vii–cxv). Berlin: W. de Gruyter. Sturm, T. (2000). On the so-called ‘secure path of a science’. In Atti Delle ‘Celebrazioni
Clark, D. (2001). Kant’s aliens: the Anthropology and its others. CR: The New del Bicentenario della Geo-Astrofisica Kantiana 1797–1997’ e Annali del
Centennial Review, 1(2), 201–289. Dipartimento di Scienze Storiche, Filosofiche e Geografiche (pp. 111–132). Lecce:
Cohen, A. A. (in press). Physiological vs. pragmatic anthropology: A response to Lacaita editore.
Schleiermacher’s objection to Kant’s Anthropology. In Proceedings of the Tenth Wood, A. (1999). Kant’s ethical thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
International Kant Congress. Berlin: W. de Gruyter. Wood, A. (2005). Kant. London: Blackwell.
Cohen, A. A. (2004). Kant’s antinomy of reflective judgment: A re-evaluation. Zammito, J. H. (2002). Kant, Herder, and the birth of anthropology. Chicago:
Teorema, 23, 183–197. University of Chicago Press.

For a detailed account of these fallacies, see the section on the Paralogisms of pure reason in Kant (1929).
‘‘I”, as a thinking being, signifies the object of that psychology which may be entitled the ‘‘rational doctrine of the soul” (Kant, 1929, p. 329 [B 400]).
Kant (1996), p. 4 [7:120].
Ibid., p. 3 [7:119].